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Critics Blast Apple’s $2.5 Billion Pledge to California Housing Crisis

A homeless man sits in the shade with his belongings at Venice Beach. Apple's pledge to stem California's housing crisis is being criticized for not tackling homelessness.
A homeless man sits in the shade with his belongings at Venice Beach. Apple's pledge to stem California's housing crisis is being criticized for not tackling homelessness. (Photo: Brian Auer)

Apple just committed $2.5 billion to help alleviate the California housing crisis. Facebook and Google already committed $1 billion each. Is it enough? And why are they facing harsh criticism?

On Monday, news broke about Apple’s $2.5 billion pledge to fix California’s housing crisis, in the Bay Area in particular. It’s not that homes are not being built in Silicon Valley, it’s just that the prices are high. Some estimates say a decent home in Mountain View or San Jose has a $1.5 million price tag. The state simply doesn’t have enough jobs that pay those types of wages to help people get into new housing. In San Francisco families earning $110,000 are considered low income.

The tech companies’ nearly $5 billion pledge is one made out of “profound civic responsibility” and is designed to change the downward spiral by building affordable housing to help people live and work in Silicon Valley and to make an effort to get homeless people off the streets. In California, there is a shortage of more than three million homes. Homeownership is at a seven-year low, and 30,000 people left the San Francisco area between April and June, instead going to migration destinations like Las Vegas, Atlanta, Phoenix and Austin. Many are teachers, first responders and firefighters who simply are being priced out of the area.

Apple was criticized for not immediately joining Facebook and Google, but the company said it has been meeting with California housing leaders during the past year to truly understand the issues and needs. Part of Apple’s pledge involves handing over $300 million worth of company-owned land on which to build affordable San Jose housing, and a $1 billion first-time home buyer mortgage assistance fund to help struggling families.

Can Big Tech Solve California’s Housing Crisis?

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) called Apple out on Monday for the move. Sanders is not impressed, saying Apple’s effort is only a smoke-and-mirrors distraction of a problem the company is largely responsible for creating. Sanders criticized Apple for now getting into the real estate business, faulting the company for creating the California housing crisis while simultaneously bringing in $800 million in taxpayer subsidies. Sanders went even further by sharply criticizing Apple for keeping $250 billion profit offshore to avoid paying taxes in the United States.

The Sanders presidential campaign backed up its criticism with hard data, saying that California families need to earn about $35 per hour to be able to afford a simple two bedroom apartment in the area.

“We cannot rely on corporate tax evaders to solve California’s housing crisis,” Sanders said in a statement Monday evening.

Some say that despite big tech’s efforts, there is no long-term hope for the housing crisis in California, and that the tech industry is out of touch with the realities of the world. According to Fox Business News, in San Francisco, the top 1% of earners bring in salaries over $800,000 while the bottom 20% of residents make $16,000 a year. Carnegie Mellon University professor Vivek Wadhwa told Fox that because of this reality, there is “no hope for them, no matter what happens over here.” Wadhwa said that what is really going on is that Apple is subsidizing housing for its own employees.

Does the Housing Plan Fix Homelessness?

Despite pledges to organizations like Destination: Home, Apple is also under fire because critics say the plan attempts to address California’s housing crisis but not homelessness. According to Bernie Sanders’ Monday statement, there are 134,000 homeless people in California.

“I wish that Apple had put the $2.5 billion into the homelessness [problem], that would have been a good start. What they’re doing instead is subsidizing housing for their own employees,” said Vivek Wadwha to Fox.

The homeless situation in cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco is indeed dire. Public health officials are dealing with epidemic diseases like tuberculosis and typhus.

“Our homeless crisis is increasingly becoming a public-health crisis,” California Governor Gavin Newsom said in his State of the State speech in February, citing outbreaks of hepatitis A in San Diego County, syphilis in Sonoma County, and typhus in Los Angeles County.

“Typhus,” he said. “A medieval disease. In California. In 2019.”

Los Angeles native and board-certified internist Dr. Drew Pinsky has been warning about the health effects of the homelessness issue for more than a year. He has been highly critical of the L.A. city government, which he calls “disgustingly negligent.” Pinksy describes the rampant drug addiction and mental illness in this population. “No city on earth tolerates this.” In short, Pinsky says these people have much bigger issues and are not interested in housing.

Jacqueline Havelka

Jacqueline is a rocket scientist turned writer. She covers health, science and tech news for Citizen Truth. In her first career, she managed experiments & data on the Space Station & Shuttle.

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